March for Meals initiative hopes to promote Meals for Wheels to elected officials

One-in-six seniors struggle with hunger, according to "Meals on Wheels".

There are currently 900 people in Sussex County Delaware participating in the local program. But there is increasing concern over state and federal funding and how it might affect the non-profit.

1,400 meals are made by hand per day at CHEER, which then makes its way by car to senior citizens in Sussex County through "Meals on Wheels".

This month across the United States, service providers like CHEER, aren't just driving around dinners, they're raising awareness through a nationwide effort called "March for Meals", to involve their elected officials.

47 ABC caught up with a couple of legislators, U.S. Senator Tom Carper and State Representative Tim Dukes. Two of the first to participate in this program.

47 ABC even went along for the ride, personally delivering meals, throughout Sussex County.

Executive Director Ken Bock explains that these trays of food offer variety and proper nutrition. But these dishes satisfy more than just an appetite.

Bock says, "In the case of Meals on Wheels program, many times the person who knocks on that front door and delivers that meal will be the only human interaction that person may have in their course of their day."

For fiscal year 2017, Sussex County got just over half a million dollars in federal and state funding for the program.

But Bock says it's not uncommon for the agency to run out of money by June, sometimes even in May.

In the last couple of years, the state has amended the "Meals on Wheels" funding contract to add additional money in the event that they do run out.

"Meals on Wheels" Delaware also acts a safety net, raising money for CHEER and the four other provider agencies across the states. As many non-profits, this donation safety net is stretched thin, which is why so many have their eyes locked on the Trump administration and the president's budget proposal.

The budget proposes cutting funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development by $6.2 billion dollars.

These cuts would affect the Community Development Block Grant, which provides for a variety of anti-poverty programs, including "Meals on Wheels".

The reason why this is such an issue for Sussex County is the growing aging population.

It's increasing at a faster rate, than Kent and New Castle Counties and has blown past the national average.

We're told 2/3 of all people that decide to live in Delaware are moving to Sussex County.

We spoke to Senator Tom Carper about Trump's suggested cuts, as he thinks many local, state and federal leaders still want to continue providing funds. He said in a country like America people shouldn't go hungry.

If these cuts do go forward, $2.4 million seniors will be affected, including 500,000 veterans.

The "Meals on Wheels" program relies on volunteers five days a week.

If you would like to become a volunteer, click here

Categories: Delaware, Local News